“I’ll put it this way, brother: You’ve got to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer. A thermostat shapes the climate of opinion; a thermometer just reflects it. If you’re just going to reflect it and run by the polls, then you’re not going to be a transformative president. Lincoln was a thermostat. Johnson and F.D.R., too.”—Do you want to be a thermostat, or a thermometer?
I like this image of a thermostat vs a thermometer as a metaphor for leaders. It also reminds me of “Are you the scanner or the barcode” by Cory Doctorow from Make volume 22 http://makezine.com/22/ (The article is not online.)
(Cornell West, answering the question “How can Obama be the president you want him to be when he’s facing this Republican Congress?” From Talk - Cornel West - NYTimes.com, Sunday, July 24, 2011.)
Running an organization is difficult in and of itself, no matter what its goals. Every transaction it undertakes—every contract, every agreement, every meeting—requires it to expend some limited resource: time, attention, or money. Because of these transaction costs, some sources of value are too costly to take advantage of. As a result, no institution can put all its energies into pursuing its mission; it must expend considerable effort on maintaining discipline and structure, simply to keep itself viable. Self-preservation of the institution becomes job number one, while its stated goal is relegated to number two or lower, no matter what the mission statement says. The problems inherent in managing these transaction costs are one of the basic constraints shaping institutions of all kinds. [p29]
…New social tools are altering this equation by lowering the costs of coordinating group action. The easiest place to see this change is in activities that are too difficult to be pursued with traditional management but that have become possible with new forms of coordination.” [p31]
”—Shirky on change and the org, from Here Comes Everybody
“Urgency is becoming increasingly important because change is shifting from episodic to continuous. With episodic change, there is no one big issue such as making and integrating the largest acquisition in a firm’s history. With continuous change, some combination of acquisitions, new strategies, big IT projects, reorganizations, and the like comes at you in an almost ceaseless flow…Put simply, a strong sense of urgency is moving from an essential element in big change programs to an essential asset in general”—p. 82, Kotter, John P, A Sense of Urgency, Harvard Business Press, 2008.
“…Leading firms’ most profitable customers generally don’t want, and indeed initially can’t use, products based on disruptive technologies. By and large, a disruptive technology is initially embraced by the least profitable customers in a market. Hence, most companies with a practiced discipline of listening to their best customers and identifying new products that promise greater profitability and growth are rarely able to build a case for investing in disruptive technologies until it is too late.”—p. 134, Christensen, Clayton M, The Inventor’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1997.
“Greg and Connie were born in New Jersey, but from the moment the Internet struck, they might as well have just arrived from Taiwan. When the Internet landed on them, it redistributed the prestige and authority that goes with a general understanding of the ways of the world away from the grown-ups and to the child. The grown-ups now depended on the child to translate for them. Technology had turned them into a family of immigrants.”—Jonathan Lebed’s Extracurricular Activities - New York Times
“Amazon sells the same products as competitors such as Barnesandnoble.com, and they receive the same product descriptions, cover images, and editorial content from their vendors. But Amazon has made a science of user engagement.”—
(I love the notion of “making a science of user engagement” being the key differentiator. I’m reflecting on a social media strategy charrette I was just in where the client was confused about why their >$1M website only had 1,000 visits a day.)
“…Web 2.0 companies set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data and building value as a side-effect of ordinary use of the application. As noted above, they build systems that get better the more people use them.”—